Originally released in 2008, The Broken Hearted Bride saw a reunion of the Strawbs line-up which had recorded albums like Hero & Heroine and Ghosts, both of which did well in the US, and reawakened interest in the band. It’s been unavailable in recent years but has now been remastered, reissued and includes previously unreleased additional tracks. The album gives a passing nod to their early seventies album Grave New World in that mainman David Cousins is still willing to consider topics like terrorism and climate change, some of the more uncomfortable realities of modern life.
Call To Action was written around the time of the Iraq war, involving a confrontation between the forces of militant Islam and the West. However, Cousins’ voice seems a little too far back in the mix and the lyrics aren’t always clear. However, Cousins and Lambert give good vocal performances on title track The Broken Hearted Bride, an allegorical story about a young woman who, unbeknownst to her, had inadvertently fallen in love with a suicide bomber masquerading as a student (…he pulled the cord inside his coat and blew himself away), the assumption being he wasn’t the only one either. Too Many Angels, with its wistful introspective lyrics, sees Cousins telling a story of personal regrets – ‘Too many angels have fallen at my feet…’.
There are a couple of songs with personal messages as well. Deep In The Darkest Night was written soon after the sad demise of Cousins’ brother Gerry (Now you’re just a memory but never out of sight), and We’ll Meet Again Some Time, reprised from a Dave Cousins solo album, was written for keyboard man John Hawken, who’d been ill during the recording and had to retire from music due to ill-health – though, happily, is back with us again.
The Strawbs tap into their inner prog on what are, for this scribe, the two best tracks on the album, the eight minute Through Aphrodite’s Eyes and Everybody Knows. The former sees the band far from their folky roots and at their proggiest, with a lengthy intro and outro, good guitar work from Lambert, and Cousins’ vocals ranging from a whisper to a scream, while the slower Everybody Knows, with its message of hope, wouldn’t sound out of place on any of Marillion’s later albums. Christmas Cheer however, with its incessant disco beat, is not one of the band’s better efforts, while Dave Lambert chips in with two tracks, the dark and broody Shadowlands, plus the whimsical You Know As Well As I, with its mildly Caribbean feel. The album concludes with Action Replay, an instrumental version of opening track Call To Action. The reissued album also contains interesting retro versions of Too Many Angels, You Know As Well As I and Everybody knows, which has a more upbeat backing.
For a band who were close to their fortieth birthday by the time this album was first released in 2008, The Bride… is probably as good as could reasonably have been expected and, while nowhere near their ’70s peak, it showed The Strawbs still have something to offer, which is rocky, occasionally proggy – and, overall, that small speck you see in the rear view mirror is their folky roots receding into the far distance…